Manifesta: Contemporary art in St. Petersburg
Contemporary art in Putin's Russia: DW presents a peek inside Manifesta. The traveling biennale is taking place in St. Petersburg, amidst a climate of censorship and homophobia.
At the opening ceremony of the Manifesta 10 biennale in Russia, State Hermitage Museum director Michail Piotrowski said they had sought advice from lawyers, and no piece of art showcased at Manifesta was found to violate Russian law. That's why Nicole Eisenman's painting "It is so," showing two women making love, is being shown despite the country's law against propagating homosexuality.
Clouds over St. Petersburg
Ahead of Manifesta, there were doubts about whether the show should take place in Putin's Russia. Curator Kapser König and his team had to fight bureaucracy and censorship, but the exhibition has finally opened its doors in the old State Hermitage Museum Eremitage and a former military building which now houses a museum for contemporary art.
Gerhard Richter's painting "Emma" is an icon of 20th-century German art. It is now showcased in a room which is only separated by a wall from the pompous St. George's Hall, the throne room of the Russian emperor.
'Mom, who's the princess?'
The girl pictured above was fascinated by the princess with the little dog. Artist Katharina Fritsch positioned her erotic "Lady with Dog" in Czarina Maria Alexandrovna's dressing room as a humorous response to the convoluted historic interior. At the same time, it's a tribute to the famous novella by Anton Chekhov.
A reference to Malevich?
Artist Thomas Hirschhorn called the large-scale installation pictured above "Deduction." In the bare rooms, the pictures by famous Russian artists such as Pawel Filonov or Kazimir Malevich can only be seen at second glance. Hirschhorn sees his work as a reflection of the revolutionary ideas of Russian art in the early 20th century.
Apprehensions of war
Ukrainian Photo artist Boris Mikhailov keeps the "myth of Maidan" alive in his pictures. He rejected boycotting the exhibition, as many of his colleagues demanded. "If you have to say something, then you have to say it," he said. Initially he wanted to call his series "Apprehension of a Civil War," since it emerged in December 2013 on Kyiv's Maidan Square, but ended up calling it "War Theater."
Gay and famous
According to the administration of Manifesta 10, there is no censorship at the exhibition, only certain taboos that have to be kept in mind. At least South African artist Marlene Dumas is allowed to showcase her portraits of gay men, among them Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Rudolf Nureyev, and Sergei Dyagilev. Her work is titled "Famous Men."
St. Petersburg's local art scene
As a testimonial to the local art scene, Manifesta 10 shows important works by some artists from St. Petersburg. Among them is Wladislaw Maychev, who died in 2013 at the age of 44. He was one of the colorful figures of the Russian art scene in the 1990s and stylized himself as the art figure "Monroe." Pictured above is his (self) portrait.
What looks like a car accident is part of the art project "Lada Kopeika" by artist Francis Alys, who traveled from Brussels to St. Petersburg with his brother only to crash into a tree inside the State Hermitage Museum's courtyard after a four-day trip. The two brothers had dreamed about the trip back when they were teenagers. The "road movie" they shot on the way is part of the show.
See and be seen
Through the end of October, Manifesta 10 offers numerous events. The exhibition aims to encourage reflection and become a meeting place for young people, who might end up snapping a picture next to the art of Huan Munoz (pictured above).